This year was marked for me by having one garden that shocked me by its badness, and one that delighted me. And the other remarkable thing was the extent of agreement about both those things amongst the people I talked to.
Prize for shock went to Jinny Blom’s garden for Prince Harry and his charity Sentebale, based in Lesotho. I met people who were horrified, I met people who were angry, I met people who were bewildered. And some who tried hard to find good things to say – the planting gained some appreciation.
I think of Jinny Blom as a great designer, with a sensitivity to both her clients and the location of the gardens she designs. On her website she says :
The process of designing has become, for us, a well-considered progression through analysis of the location we inherit, understanding our clients, their lives and their wishes, the soil, the existing plants and creatures living there, the wider landscape and the climate.
I understand that when she designed this Chelsea garden she hadn’t visited the location, which may explain why two people I met, who both knew Lesotho, were clear that the garden bore no relation to the place. And disliked the stereotypical take on Africa.
Well, there are often surprisingly poor gardens at Chelsea. The interesting question for thinkingardeners will be how the media present and manage to praise this garden. We know all gardens are lovely, and this one has Princess Diana and royalty at its heart. The RHS have had the courage to award Silver Gilt. But will anyone dare ‘lovely’ this time ?
It was suggested to me that the spin would be something like ‘interesting and challenging’. We’ll see.
The delight was Christopher Bradley-Hole’s garden for the Telegraph.
This garden had a wonderful simplicity – and a great deal of delightful and intricate detail in the planting. One of the joys was the beautiful wooden railing surrounding the garden, enabling us to lean (no glass, sadly, but there’s the ideal place for it) and enjoy.
And no doubt you will read pages and pages of further detail elsewhere. The ‘theme’ – a homage to the British landscape and its history, is one close to my heart, and its interpretation was not heavy handed and clunky, Chelsea style.
And one of the best things is that this is clearly and honestly a garden to be looked at. A show garden. There is no path or hut that the frustrated Chelsea goer will only be able to imagine experiencing. The visitor will not be short changed or frustrated. It’s designed for them, to lean on the rail (if they can get at it) and enjoy.
And no reason why a garden at home shouldn’t be just that too. A great inspiration here, though I hate that representation of what a garden is for. Year round delight, I’d say. Along with my last year’s choice a rarity: a Chelsea garden which made sense and spoke to me.
Neither won best in show…
Anne Wareham, editor